Yousuf Aftab, JD 2006By Peter Boisseau / Photography by Michelle Yee

From the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Nexus

When Yousuf Aftab graduated from U of T Law in 2006, he knew one day he wanted to help other students join the ranks of the legal profession.

“U of T Law was phenomenal to me and it opened so many doors,” says Aftab, a human rights consultant in New York City who recently made a $25,000 student financial aid donation, along with his wife Marjolaine Côté, who works in international development at the UN.

“I always knew that to the extent I could, I wanted to contribute to student aid so others could enjoy the same opportunities.”

Aftab and Côté believe diversity in the legal profession is crucial to ensuring protection for society’s most vulnerable members.

The best way to encourage that diversity is to make law school accessible to people from all walks of life, says Aftab, the 40-year-old founder of Enodo Rights, a consulting firm that advises multinational corporations on human rights issues.

He recalls that rising tuition and its impact on access to the legal profession was at the forefront of debate when he was at U of T.

The school provides financial assistance to about 50 per cent of its students and Aftab says the ongoing campaign to raise funds is essential to ensuring growing access to people with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds.

“It should never just be a matter of who is in your family tree or privilege or connections.”

While he would welcome others to follow in his footsteps and work in the area of international human rights, he says the most important thing is focusing on creating greater diversity in every field of the legal profession.

“No matter what challenges they face and the path graduates follow, the legal system has to have diversity to act as a bulwark against injustice.”